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The Dos and Don’ts of Candidate Experience

As the fight for talent continues to evolve, the latest battleground revolves around Candidate Experience. Here, our Talent Pros provide some expert strategies to employ as you enter the arena. 

What is Candidate Experience

Candidate experience is centred on answering the question: How do candidates feel throughout our hiring process?

Every touch point a candidate has with your company—from the job description or initial outreach from a recruiter to the offer (or rejection) email or phone call—influences their perception and opinion.

Why does this matter and what can you do to ensure you’re creating a standout candidate experience? Read on for actionable tips and tricks from industry-leading recruiters.

Why is candidate experience important?

There’s a direct connection between a candidate’s experience with your company and their future behavior. Candidates who have a negative experience—and therefore a high level of resentment toward an employer—are less likely to apply again or refer others to that employer. According to research by The Talent Board, candidate resentment rose from 8% in 2020 to 14% in 2021—a 75% spike. Unhappy candidates won’t just avoid applying to roles at your company in the future—they’re likely to share their thoughts and opinions with others about their negative experience, further damaging your reputation.

Alternatively, a positive experience—even for candidates who don’t receive an offer— increases the chances they’ll be willing to apply for roles in the future and refer others. At a time when employee tenures are shrinking and you are likely to find yourself hiring for the same role in the near future, this is a huge benefit.

Candidate experience also provides a peek into your company culture and work style. This presents an opportunity to show candidates what they can expect at your company, whether it’s how you communicate or your culture of giving feedback. This might cause some candidates to self-select out of the process—and that’s perfectly okay. It’s better for them (and you) to discover that it’s not a good fit before an offer is accepted, they’ve joined your company and it’s too late.

How can you measure candidate experience?

Now that we’ve covered some reasons why it’s so important to create a positive candidate experience, the next step is to figure out how you can measure or assess candidate experience at your company. There are several ways to go about this.

One simple tactic is to map out the candidate journey, similar to how your sales team might map out the prospect’s journey or the product team would map out the user’s journey. With a whiteboard and some sticky notes, outline all the different touch points a candidate has with your company during the application and interview process. Next, identify which points your talent acquisition team can control or influence. What changes can you make to improve each of those key moments?

For more quantitative feedback, you can survey candidates. Many applicant tracking systems (ATSs) have a survey template that you can send out easily, if you’re not already doing this. This is a great place to start and establish some benchmarks. Once you’ve been running the survey for a while, you can experiment with customizing or building on top of it with other tools for more in depth information.

To weave in even more color to what you’re learning from surveys, you can gather qualitative feedback through conversations. Ask people what worked for them, what didn’t, and how they recommend changing your process. Just make sure that you try to get a broad range of perspectives—don’t only talk to the candidates you hired, but aim to have conversations with candidates who didn’t receive offers or those who voluntarily dropped out of your process, too.

What are some best practices (and things to avoid) when it comes to candidate experience?

Here are a few dos and don’t s to keep in mind when trying to improve your candidate experience.

  • Keep your promises. If you tell a candidate that they’ll hear back from you in 72 hours, make sure they do. Even if you still don’t have a decision for them, a “no-update” update is much better than breaking your promise and damaging their trust.
  • Pay attention to sites like Glassdoor and Comparably, but take them with a grain of salt. While it can be useful to read through comments to identify recurring themes, try not to put too much weight on any single comment or perspective. Many talent leaders recommend responding to reviews. But again, don’t make any promises that you can’t keep. Simply thanking candidates for sharing their perspective can go a long way since it shows that you’re paying attention.
  • Pick up the phone. By the time candidates have made it to an onsite interview (or the virtual equivalent), they’ve invested a lot of time in their application. Calling candidates to thank them for their time and let them know that you’re not moving forward with them adds a personal touch. And it also leaves the door open in case you have another opportunity for them in the future.
  • Be Personable. It can get tempting to focus on the metrics and numbers, but when you stop treating candidates like people, it’s a surefire way to damage the candidate experience. Look for ways to build relationships with candidates who didn’t receive an offer—whether you periodically update them with new job openings or invite them to company events—you can demonstrate that the door is not fully closed and you’d welcome them to apply again in the future.

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